Next week is my birthday. I’m not really big on parties for me, LOVE them for OTHERS, crawl out of my skin if it’s for ME. My family knows this, or at least they should have a pretty good idea. After a couple of decades together, you hopefully start to get a feel for each other, the lines you can cross, and the ones that will get you shot. Things like “mom is allowed to tickle anyone in the house, but if you try to tickle mom, then people will bleed”. It’s not that I intended for these seemingly unfair rules to come into being. I honestly don’t like the double standard, it simply is the way it is. Venture forth at your own risk. Mom can also surprise anyone. But if anyone attempts to sneak up on mom,to scare her, it’s going to be a very dark, dark world that person inhabits for the foreseeable future.
In my wayward and oft misguided youth, where resilience and stupidity lent themselves handily to a willingness to sleep just about anywhere and be able to jump pain free to my feet at dawn and spring forth into a bright new day. I didn’t mind camping, in fact it was kind of fun. When I graduated from Boston College I spent six weeks with a friend driving and camping across the northern United States. I spent many nights putting up a tent in pouring rain, sleeping in a puddle, only to start another 8 hour drive the next day. I had no complaints most of the time. It’s true that I did try to kill my companion on a number of occasions but that’s really the fault of my companion who didn’t appreciate the merits of stopping to ask for directions, choosing instead to drive until it was dark and we were lost. Suffice it to say we made it to San Francisco alive and ready to go our separate ways. If you need to find out whether a relationship has staying power, I highly recommend containing yourself to a small vehicle, conversation limited to each other, no workable radio, and spending hours on end arguing over maps, setting up tents in the rain, and glaring at each other over fistful’s of stale granola. Since those years my husband and sons who love to camp, (they’re Boy Scouts and Boy Scouts are crazy. Like, camp in snow and sleep with your boots shoved at the bottom of your bag so they won’t freeze like everything else kind of crazy. Throw axes at targets over an icy expanse, thump your chest and howl at the moon crazy. ) have never failed to extend an invitation for me to join them. I have always declined, preferring the softness and warmth of my bed, indoor plumbing, and heat pouring through the baseboards of our ancient house. Nope. I do not like to camp anymore. Definitely not in frigid temps, and definitely not on in a sac on the ground. Don’t try to tell me how great the fresh air is, that’s why God created Windows that open. My body is simply not shaped like the ground,my spirit not hardy enough for pioneer loving, my tolerance for discomfort diminished with each coming year….
My endurance and willingness to suffer such indignities passed somewhere during the childbearing and child rearing years where I seemed to sleep exclusively and uncomfortably propped up in chairs while an adorable but parasitical infant slept dangling by sheer mouth suction from a sore, leaky breast that never seemed to get put away, so frequent were the feelings. I would stare darkly and mutely at my sleeping husband, cursing nature for providing men with useless breasts. One small genetic mutation was all that stood between me and a good nights rest. Please understand, I CHOSE to breastfeed my children and would do it all over again. I was always weening one baby halfway through being pregnant with another baby. I think it’s fair to say that after 5 babies and ten years of sleep deprived nursing, I am entitled to pull back the rosy veil and bitch a bit.
Now over the years there have been the usual hits and misses to be expected in the gift giving department. That’s understandable and even forgivable. Except for the year hubby funded the children’s eager desire to purchase me lurid, highly perfumed, giant, fuzzy, pink dice, meant to dangle with class from my rear view mirror damn him. No matter how many times I stuffed them under the drivers seat, in a glovebox, or in the mysterious space between the back row of seats and the side wall by the floor, those determined and clever children always found them, exclaiming happily “Look mamma! They aren’t lost! We found them! Again!”. Damn that man.. The truth is, you actually spend your whole lives getting to know the people you love, so constantly evolving is each heart. However, there are certain unchangeable parts of our nature, and if you love someone, I mean really love someone you do well to make note of these things. Small example: don’t ever (and I mean EVER) touch a girls bangs. Don’t “adjust” the front of her hair, however out of place it may appear I ASSURE you, each strand has been carefully and deliberately placed. You touch, you DIE. Also, please don’t think the day will come when you can run your fingers silkily through my naturally curly hair. You can’t. It is a tangled web of knotted hell, and pulling your fingers though it feels like having each piece removed forcefully. It’s not romantic. It’s not even NICE. No touchy.
As my birthday approaches, suggestions are sought. I helpfully fill the Amazon wish list with things that delight me. You just can’t get a gentler or slower pitch over home plate than that. I tell you all of this because this morning I received the following text from my husband as he lobbed out potential gift ideas for me. It read :
“I still want to do something special for your birthday! What if I had a friend with a VW (with camper) and two zip-together Zero degree sleeping bags???”
He wasn’t joking. He was sincere. Misguided and yet sincere. Had he not seen my lists? How long has this man been married to me? Did he just wake up one morning and FORGET who he was lying next to? I responded with my dumbfounded ire:
“And what, in our entire history together, the full body of knowledge you posses of me , has lead you to the conclusion that in the middle of one of the coldest months of the year, on the heels of a massive flare up of fibromyalgia, and with my ardent and emphatic diatribes on the need for a soft bed at night and indoor plumbing, and firm belief camping of any sort is not even permitted by the Geneva convention, causes you to think THIS would be the way I would like to spend my 46th birthday?????”
I am in a reflective mood as I sit here typing, curled in thick blankets, propped up on half a dozen over sized pillows, brightly lit room, heat spilling out from all directions as the dark, night sky views me as it should: through double paned windows and insulated curtains. Next week is my birthday. I’ll be 46 and I’ll be surrounded by people I love. I hope for everyone’s sake, it is indoors, but if I have to be completely honest, as long as I’m with them, I don’t care where we are. I’ll even endure camping if means we are together.